Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Tuesday, February 9, 10:35 p.m.
Boone had trouble keeping a straight face. Naturally, he had never seen Fletcher Galloway dressed for bed, and he certainly had never seen Dorothy that way either. It seemed strange to see this handsome, late-sixties black woman in a long robe over pajamas, wearing fuzzy slippers, yet still with her hair just so and her makeup in place after the evening out with her husband.
Fletcher himself was dressed the same way, striped pajama pants showing at the bottom of his robe. He greeted the cops warmly, beginning a fancy handclasp with Jack, then seeming to resign himself to a conventional shake. “Forgot,” he said. “White boys got no style.”
“Guilty,” Jack said, winking at Boone while reaching to shake Dorothy's hand. “An unexpected pleasure to get to see you too, ma'am.”
“Mm-hm,” she said, seeming to reluctantly extend her hand.
The Galloways sat next to each other on a couch near the fireplace in a small TV room next to the kitchen at the back of the house. It struck Boone as dated but cozy. Dorothy looked locked and loaded; Fletcher, nervous and wary.
“Sorry,” Jack said, settling into one of the matching lounge chairs next to Boone, “but we don't have time for small talk.”
“You don't say,” Dorothy said. “Normally you would at this time of night?”
“No. Doesn't surprise me you're as good an investigator as your husbandâ”
“Okay, listen, Jack Keller. Don't patronize me. I see what's happening here, so let me say my piece and I'll leave you gentlemen to whatever it is you think is important enough to drive all the wayâ”
Jack began to speak, but she stopped him by raising a hand.
“Something's up,” she said, “and I don't need to know what. This one here, he won't tell me because he knows better. He's never brought his work home, and I didn't expect him to. I'm glad he didn't.
“But let me tell you this. Whatever you think is important enough to bring you here had better be worth the trouble. Fletcher has been retired only a couple of days, and I'm not about to lose him back to the job. If it's advice you're after, he'll give it to you. But if you're here because you think you just can't get along without him, well, too bad. He always said his greatest satisfaction came from seeing his people succeed. Hanging on to the old boss is not succeeding.
“Now, he gave himself to the CPD for a lot of years. It's taken its toll, and I prayed he would get a chance to enjoy life before the years got away from us. Since the end of the party, when we walked out of that office for the last time, I've seen a new man. It's like the weight of the world rolled off his shoulders. Know what I mean?”
Boone nodded and saw Jack do the same. Again Jack appeared to want to say something, but Dorothy cut him off, inhaling loudly and shaking her head.
“Hear me out. This man here is sleeping. He's smiling. He's even walkin' with me every morning, and we're enjoying life like we haven't since before we had kids. You do one thing to jeopardize that, you're gonna answer to me. You got it?”
“He's already distracted himself wondering what it's all about. I don't want that. Call me selfish, but I want him all to myself now.”
“I understand,” Jack said.
“You may think you do, but you don't. What Fletcher's told me about you over the years? You're just like he was. What's the highest compliment you guys give each other?”
Boone said, “He's all cop.”
“That's it,” she said. “And when I heard people say that about my husband, I knew what it meant, and I was proud. I'm still proud. But I also know what it cost. Because it cost me, too. Well, no more. Don't be trying to take him back.”
Jack cleared his throat. “One thing about your husband, Mrs. Galloway: we always knew where he stood. He didn't talk in riddles. I see it runs in the family. Boones and me, we got the message.”
“Well, all right, then,” she said, standing. This brought all three men to their feet. “I'll say good night. And I'll also say don't make this a habit. Next time you come here it better be because your cholesterol is a quart low. We can talk kids and grandkids and sports and church and anything you want exceptÂ .Â .Â . well, you know.”
“Like I say, ma'am, rest assured that Boones and I heard you.”
“Then come're and give me a hug, both of you. I'm about to put up my hair and wash my face, so you won't be seeing any more of me tonight.”
Dorothy pecked her husband on the cheek and said, “IÂ know where your gun's at, Fletcher.”
Fletch widened his eyes in feigned terror and they all laughed. Dorothy wagged a finger at Jack and Boone. “It's got more'n one bullet.”
When she was gone, the three men sat quietly staring at the floor.
“Wow, you're a lucky man, Chief,” Boone said.
“You don't have to tell me.”
“Just saying, I'd give anything to have a wife who'd say something like that at the end of my career.”
Galloway nodded. “The end isn't easy. But it's easier when you're happy with your partner. She worried about me, prayed for me, every minute I was on duty. Even the last twenty years when I was behind the desk and not likely to see action.”
“Because she knew,” Jack said. “I remember at least three times when you went right to the scene, while the action was still going down. No one expected you to. No one would have even questioned your waiting for a briefing. But your men were out there, soâ”
“So was I. There's a way to do a job and a way not to do it.”
“And you always did it the right way.”
“Okay, enough shinin' each other's shoes,” Galloway said. “I want both barrels, and I want 'em now. What's happening?”
“Well, Boones here is going to fill you in, but first we've got to get something out of the way. It's about whether you're officially retired yet or are still a sworn offiâ”
“We both know the answer to that, Jack, but she doesn't. My official severance date is March 1, but for all practical purposes, I'm out now and nobodyâbut you and Drake here, apparentlyâis expecting anything out of me but to act like a retiree. And I've been okay with that up to now.”
“You want to keep it that way? Because we don't have to involve you. It's your call.”
Fletcher Galloway gave Jack Keller a look that would have put a wart on a gravestone. “Yeah, that's me, Jack. Let you guys show up with some bee in your bonnet that's already stung you clear to the brain, and you think I don't at least want to know what it's about?”
Boone leaned forward. “If I may, ChiefÂ .Â .Â . As you can imagine, anything big enough to bring us to your door is likely going to be something that will engage you. But it's not going to make you happy. In fact, it's going to turn your stomach. Frankly, I don't think it's something that's going to let you pretend you're carefree, the way Dorothy likes you.”
“I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing, Drake. If I have to keep it from her, act like things are okay, I can do that.”
“I'm not so sure,” Jack said.
Fletcher sat back and sighed. “I'm not going to want to hear this, am I?”
Boone shook his head.
Fletcher stood and moved to the fireplace, turning his back on Jack and Boone. He grabbed a brass tool and poked at a log. “Is it what I feared?”
Jack and Boone looked at each other. “Not sure we know what you feared, boss,” Jack said.
Fletcher turned to face them, suddenly looking his age. “Pete Wade.” He settled back on the couch, somehow appearing heavier now, sodden, as if it would take the both of them to help him up again. “We go way back, Jack. You know that.”
“We worked together before there was a policy manual. Before Personnel became Human Resources. Before affirmative action and sexual harassment and anger management and political correctness. Back then every other cop had your back and you had his, and there was never even a question. We would have taken a bullet for each other.”
Boone was grateful Jack let the silence hang in the air, lending gravity to Fletcher's memories.
Galloway covered his face with his hands and rubbed his eyes. “I knew this didn't smell right. I as much as flat-out told you that, didn't I, Drake?”
“You did. I thought you were just making me feel good because you knew I had a thing for Haeley.”
“You ought to know me better'n that. I don't say things to make people feel good. I told you I disagreed with Pete, thought he was on the wrong track. But you've got to trust a man you've known as long as I've known Wade and who has that much history with you.”
“Forgive me for asking,” Jack said, “but is that why you left so soon after the big bust and Boone's shooting? You knew something was fishy in your own office and you wanted to distance yourself from it?”
Galloway seemed to study the ceiling. “I wouldn't do that. I wasn't running from anything. I hoped it would go away and my fears would be proven wrong. But it didn't sit right. One thing that won't surprise me is that young Ms. Lamonica is in the clear. Am I right about that?”
“Yes. Boones has been personally investigating the case for her attorney.”
“Fritz.” That brought a wry smile to Fletch's face. “The guy we love to hate and hate to love. Perfect choice. Anyway, if I know Haeley Lamonica, there was no way she had any part in this, unless by accident. I mean, that would be serious, but not a crime.”
“She's going to be cleared,” Boone said. “But Pete is dirty. There's no other way to say it, and I know you don't want anything but the unvarnished truth.”
“You got that right. Now when you say dirtyÂ .Â .Â .”
“You're going to have to hear it all,” Boone said. “Then you'll know. The tough part is that it goes well beyond this case.”
“Don't tell me that! This case is enough! Something he did almost got a fellow officer killed. Almost got a prime witness killed. There doesn't have to be any more.”
“And yet there is, Fletch,” Jack said. “I'm so sorry to have to dump this on you. But there is.”
Fletcher Galloway slowly rocked until he was in position to rise again. He shuffled into the kitchen. “You guys need anything?”
They didn't respond.
The old man opened the refrigerator and stood staring in. Finally he idly grabbed a bottle of water and slowly returned. He looked as grave as Boone had ever seen him, and the last thing Boone wanted was to lay out such a devastating case.
But there was no way around it.
Galloway removed the cap from his water bottle but made no move to drink from it. He just sat shaking his head and breathing loudly through his nose.
Tuesday, February 9, Late night
Jack led Boone painstakingly, deliberately, as he laid out every scintilla of evidence he had uncovered.
Boone wondered whether Fletcher Galloway would have the energy to stay with him, the stamina even to stay awake. But as he ticked off the litany of revelations, it struck him again that the older man had been much more than a suit, a desk cop, an executive. He had paid his dues, earned his chops, demonstrated street smarts, and embodied all the other clichÃ©s fellow cops used about the old-timers.
Galloway's eyelids didn't seem to even flicker as the clock dragged on. Rather, it appeared the man began to smolder like the dying embers in the fireplace. As the room cooled, Fletch seemed to fold in upon himself, his body segueing into heat-conservation mode. His brow was knit, and he squinted as he took in the awful information.
He had begun with his hands in his lap. Soon he slid them under his thighs. Finally he crossed his legs and then his arms. By the end he was swaying slightly as the terrible weight of the allegations seemed to settle over him.
It was midnight when Boone finished, and his temptation to keep rehashing details was thwarted by Jack's lookâwhich wouldn't have been clearer if he had dragged a finger across his throat. Fletcher finally looked away, tucking his lower lip behind his upper teeth and clearing his throat. Finally he took a drag on the water. Boone felt as if he had just told the man one of his children had been murdered.
Fletch suddenly seemed distracted by the fireplace. He unfolded himself and rose slowly, making a ceremony of untying and loosening his robe, then closing it again and retying it. He shuffled to the hearth, where he rebuilt the fire with fresh kindling and logs.
As the flames grew and the moisture in the wood heated and snapped and hissed, Galloway kept his back to Boone and Jack, warmed his hands, then thrust them into the wide pockets of the robe. He stood there, head down.
Boone shifted and inhaled, ready to express his sympathy for what Fletch had just learned about his old friend. Jack held a finger to his lips. Keller knew the boss. If he felt it important to just let him be, let him find his own voice, Boone could do that.
At last Fletch turned to face them. “You boys ready for something to drink now?”
Boone started to decline, but Jack asked for a water, so he followed suit. With Fletch a few steps away in the kitchen, Jack whispered, “Just let him get used to this.”
When he returned, the old chief tossed the bottles to the cops and sat again, finding his own bottle. He tilted his head back, downing the rest. Fletcher screwed the cap back on and fired the bottle into the kitchen trash more than fifteen feet away.
“Probably give me a headache,” he said, massaging his forehead with probing fingers. “That'd be a relief.”
He let out a low, resigned expletive, then glanced quickly at the ceiling as if fearing his wife could hear him. “Forgive me, boys,” he said. “You know I'm a churchgoin' man and I know better. But sometimes no other word works.”
Boone had not expected to feel so for a man in such pain.
“You know what this reminds me of?” Galloway said. “Jackie Selebi.”
Boone raised his eyebrows at Jack, who nodded.
“That Interpol guy,” Jack said.
“Hero of mine,” Fletcher said. “Man of color in a place like thatÂ .Â .Â .”
“Not familiar,” Boone said.
Fletcher pressed his lips together. “He went from being a member of South Africa's parliament to president of Interpol. I heard him at an international conference once. Tried to model myself after the man. Then more'n ten years ago he gets named South Africa's police commissioner. His acceptance speech, about how he would attack corruption so they could âfight crime with clean hands'âsomething like thatâman, that was good, so inspiring.Â .Â .Â .”
“You've made copies of that for all us command officers,” Jack said.
Fletcher nodded slowly. “And now he's doing fifteen years.”
“For what?” Boone said.
“Taking bribes from a drug-lord murder suspect. I took his picture off my wall, threw away the rest of the copies of his speech. He's appealing the verdict, but I followed the trial. Another one bites the dust. Lot of young cops are gonna have the same reaction when Pete goes down.”
Suddenly Fletcher seemed to shake his funk and engage.
“How good an actor are you, Drake?”
“You know what kind of danger this puts Candelario in, right? There's nothing about this case Pete doesn't know. It's obvious he and Fox are in cahoots, and it won't be long before they try again to take out Pascual. We've got to get to Pete before he or whoever he assigns gets to PC, and that could be anybody for all we know. Even somebody already assigned to the safe house.”
“But you asked about myâ”
“Ability to act. This is going to require a sting. You've got to convince Pete that he got to you, won you over, trashed whatever you thought you knew about Haeley, the whole bit. That's the only thing that will slow him. If he thinks you're closing in on the truth, he'll act quick. And if he knows you've found him out, Pascual Candelario's as good as dead.”
Boone glanced at Jack. “That's why we're here. But the sting is a new wrinkle. Leave it to you to come up with that. Problem is, I'm about to keel over and still have to try to get together with Zappolo yet tonight. If I don't get some sleepâ”
“Where you gonna sleep, man?” Fletch said. “From what you tell me, not your apartment. You go back to the safe house and Pete and Garrett have you and Candelario together, just where they want you.”
“He can stay with Margaret and me,” Jack said. “But how do we stall Pete in the meantime?”
“Text him,” Fletch said. “Not at this hour. Too suspicious. Just tell him he was right and you need to talk when you get in. Bang it out now and schedule it to go a little after eight in the morning tomorrow.”
“How do you know all this techie stuff, Chief?”
“I got grandkids.”
“So, we get him slowed down,” Boone said. “Then what? We've still got to get PC and his family out of there.”
Fletcher sighed. “Don't know. Don't care.”
Boone shot him a double take. “You serious?”
“'Course not. That's just my way of saying that you have the best planning man sitting right next to you. When I had a problem like this, I assigned it to Jack and quit worrying about it. This one is trickier, though. While you're trying to sting one of the smartest cops in the history of the CPD, Keller has to figure a way to get an oversize, tattooed Mexican and his mother and child away from a safe house without even his guards knowing it. I wouldn't wish it on anybody else.”
“Getting them out of there is one thing,” Jack said. “Finding a new place for them is another. Where in the worldÂ .Â .Â .Â ?”
“First things first, Jack,” Fletch said. “Get Boone to Zappolo and then to bed, will you? He needs to be getting his sorry self ready for surgery, and we've got him in the middle of this mess.”
“Don't worry about me,” Boone said. “I'm worried about you.”
“Me?” Fletch said. “This isn't the first time I've had my heart broke. Maybe you didn't know, but Dorothy and me, we had a prodigal.”
“I didn't know.”
“That says a lot for Jack. Man knows how to keep a confidence.”
“Dang straight,” Jack said. “Nobody's business but yours. Anyway, she came back to you, didn't she?”
“To us and to God, thank the Lord. Little ones of her own now. She'll find what a pain parenting can be sometimes.”
“That how you feel about Pete?” Boone said. “Like a son?”
Galloway shook his head. “More like a younger brother. But it's not like he can come back from this the way our sweetie did. Tell you one thing: one of you two pulls something like this on me, I'm more likely to put a bullet in you.”
Boone forced a smile. “That what happens to cops who have been married a long time? They and their wives decide to settle everything with a weapon?”
“Fortunately,” Fletch said, “both of us are all bark and little bite. But one of you failing me like Pete has would be hard to take. Him? I don't know. Shocks me in one way. But there were always parts of him I didn't knowâguess that's obvious now. I mean, I thought we were close. But we never were, not really. Not off the job. That's the true test.”
“You and I haven't been close off the job either, boss,” Jack said.
“Yeah, but you weren't secretive about anything. I knew about every wife and girlfriend. I knew I could drop in on you anytime and you'd welcome me. I didn't ever get that sense from Pete. Now I know why. Sad, man. Just flat sad.”
“Sorry,” Boone said. “I wish I'd had different news.”
“I'm sorry too,” Fletcher said. “But I'm going to get some satisfaction out of seeing him busted. Nothing gets to me like one of our own breaching the public trust. That was some job you did. Your emotions could've gotten in the way, but it looks to me like you just logged the hours and stayed after it. Good, solid detective work.”
“Thanks, but there wasn't much joy in it. It's nice to know I'm going to clear Haeley, but what she went throughÂ .Â .Â .”
“It could've been worse. Take satisfaction in that.” Fletcher rose and walked them to the back door. “You sting 'im good, Drake, and Keller here will plan the escape. Keep me posted, but otherwise, for the sake of my marriage, I need you to leave me out of it, hear?”
As Jack pulled away from the house, Boone saw the light go out in the family room where they had met and noticed a light still on upstairs.
“So much for Dorothy not caring about the details,” Boone said.
Jack shook his head. “Believe me, he'll tell her precious little.”
Boone phoned Zappolo and told him Jack would join them. They agreed on the 'Round the Clock restaurant on North Sheridan.
“You sure that's what Jack wants?” Fritz said. “We have history.”
“Give me that phone,” Jack said, wrenching it from Boone's hand and laughing. “I heard that, you rascal. You've got history with every self-respecting cop. Every bad guy we bust, you get 'im exonerated.”
“So, one of us is doing our job.”
“Boones has done his on this case, so you're getting this one handed to you on a silver platter.”
“Look forward to seeing you too, Jack.”
Boone fought to stay awake and realized he had lost the battle when he awoke as Keller parked at the restaurant.